Keith Gilbertson Press Conference - 11/17

Nothing like kicking a Dawg when they are down. Whether it was heard on the radio, watched on the late-night replay, or even heard through word-of-mouth, last Saturday's massacre in Berkeley was a sucker punch to a Washington team still reeling from a loss to Arizona the week prior.

But like head coach Keith Gilbertson said on Monday, the only way to heal those wounds is to win this week in the 96th renewing of the rivalry that is now known as the Apple Cup against cross-state rival and No.8 Washington State this Saturday at Husky Stadium.

With a bowl game and even a winning season in serious doubt, this could be the final time many players put on a Washington uniform. But to even have a chance of extending their collegiate careers, they must find a way to defeat a Cougar team that is riding a huge wave of momentum into a possible BCS bowl game – not to mention the incentive to break a current five game slide against the Huskies.

"Well we've got to play better defense," said Gilbertson when asked what the Huskies need to do to get out of this round of doldrums. "We've got to get off blocks, tackle, and cover. I think secondly, you better convert some third-downs to stay in some drives. The obvious thing is to play better than we played last week, play better than we have the last six quarters. We had two pretty good quarters against Arizona and the last six have been really tough. We've got to play better than we have the last six quarters."

Washington State quarterback Matt Kegel has been a bit banged up of late, but backup redshirt-freshman quarterback Josh Swogger has done a great job in relief and led the team to victories over UCLA and Arizona State. Washington State head coach Bill Doba said that Kegel will practice on Wednesday and if he feels fine, Kegel will start the Apple Cup. Kegel no doubt is itching to play the Huskies after he received so much criticism for the fall-out of last year's demise in Pullman.

"Matt Kegel is going to play," said Gilbertson. "It's the Apple Cup. But I have to tell you, I've been very impressed with Josh Swogger. I thought he played very well last Saturday. I watched that game early Sunday morning. Obviously no one was sleeping around here and I thought he played really well. He put the ball on the money, and did a nice job of running the plays."

Should Swogger get the nod, Gilbertson said that he feels that it would not slow the Cougars down any bit or change their game plan. Also, he does not believe putting extra pressure on the younger quarterback will have much of an effect on how well he performs.

"We have a fifth year senior quarterback and everybody in the world blitzes him," he explained. "I don't think it matters what year in school you're in to get blitzed. Like I've always said, you defend systems. I don't think you particularly defend individuals especially in a system that they've been in for a long time and they're very comfortable in. Because as soon as you blitzes, you've got to man-up on three very fine receievers. Devard Darlng is having a terrific year and I don't know how much you want to man-up on him."

Reflecting back to the chaos on the field at Martin Stadium after the game last season, Gilbertson had nothing but nice things to say about the Cougar fans recalling how many of them congratulated the coaches as they were making their way down from the press box down on the field. Gilbertson did say however that he was not spared when it came to the debris flying from the stands on to the field once he got down there.

"I was privately hoping they would throw something else besides water bottles," Gilbertson said with a smile. "I was in a pretty good mood."

As to his thoughts on the controversial final play, Gilbertson stopped short of giving any personal feelings towards the call and maintained that he was in agreement with the officials with the final call.

"All I know is that Dick Baird knocked me out in the press box with his forehead on my chin," said Gilbertson. "I don't know. Did I ever see that? I saw it at the game but it wouldn't be on the side of the reel that I watch. I spend time watching the other side of the ball. But a call is a call."

Gilbertson himself has a little Cougar in him. Growing up in a household with parents who went to WSU, the Huskies head coach had seen more than few Apple Cups growing up and shared some of his Apple Cup memories.

"I've always thought it was an awesome football game," he said of game's tradition. "I've see so many of them growing up. They were all just great games. I go back to guys like Bobby Newman, George Reed, Huey Campbell, and those kinds of people. So I go back on this thing a long way. They were terrific games but growing up around here and there was only one show in town and that was right there (pointing out to Husky Stadium)."

As to the list of the walking wounded, Gilbertson said that senior tailback Rich Alexis will most likely be out again. Alexis made it a goal to come back for the Apple Cup, but according to Gilbertson, he has not made the progress necessary to be able to go on Saturday.

Also, Kenny James, Owen Biddle, and Clay Walker will all be out for a couple more days until Wednesday. Marquis Cooper and Jon Lyon, who both had minor injuries against Cal, will be back out tomorrow. Ben Bandel will attempt to come back from a separated shoulder this week, but the team will take a wait and see approach to see if he will be able to go this Saturday.

However, Brandon Ala's hamstring injury looks as if it will hold him out this week.

Also, Gilbertson addressed the issue on whether or not all the criticism regarding the effort is justified or not and how some have accused him of not taking the bulk of the blame for the problems of the team.

"Yeah, I think it's fair," said Gilbertson of the criticism. "We're (the coaching staff) doing the same thing and I think some of them (the players) should be doing the same thing. But I think the staff coached harder than the effort that we saw and I didn't think they were playing as hard, or fast, as aggressive, or as reckless as I wanted them to play and I understand where the buck stops so I'm not blaming anyone. But the fact of the matter is I get to call it as I see it too."

But one thing that Gilbertson does share with his players on a constant basis is the legacy and the tradition that is Husky Football and that in itself should be a motivating factor to turn things around as quick as possible.

"We talk about what's gone on around here in the past a lot," said he said. "A lot are really proud of it, our association with this place and what's gone on and a great respect for the amount of great efforts that have been put forth to make Husky football special. It certainly hit home with me and has since I've come here as a grad assistant a long time ago. And that certainly has not been lost when the job landed the way it did.

"One of thing that has been paramount to me is that guys who walk down that tunnel wore the helmet, guys that coached here were great coaches and great assistants and I feel that I have a great amount of responsibility to them and I still do. Does everybody feel like that? I don't know. I can only speak for me. I would hope our team would feel a same sense for that. We talk about it a lot but I don't know all the time how kids are going to react to that."

But the word that should not be associated with Husky Football is "embarrassment" and that word seems to come up more than anyone could have ever expected when describing the current state of affairs.

"We did use that word because I don't know any other word that is appropriate," said Gilbertson. "That was an embarrassing performance. There are a lot of other words that I could have said I can't say them. That was upsetting."

One thing that the Husky coach does not think of as a major problem within the team is the lack of leadership or chemistry.

"That's finger pointing," he said. "I'm not going to do that. The leadership thing has to start with me and our staff so we'll take the brunt of that. I'll take the brunt of that."

Last week, Gilbertson said that he told his players that they had better play for the "W" that they wear on that gold helmet. Today, he explained what he meant when he said to play for that prestigious "W" that so many have proudly wore in the past.

"All things that I said, all the tradition surrounding this football program, all of the great players, the tough and courageous players, that walked out that tunnel and played between the stripes of this stadium, and all those teams," said Gilbertson. "The thing that I think gets lost here and some people talk about Husky tradition as if every team went 11 or 12-0. That's not the case.

"If you really understand the tradition at the University of Washington, it's about toughness and if you look at all those teams, they didn't all go 11 or 12-0. A lot of them had to fight back through seasons that weren't going well or fight back from a devastating loss. But they always fought back. They hit people. They were courageous and they were tough. I think that's the testimony to the tradition here. But I didn't play here. I wasn't good enough of a player to play here. So you're going to have to ask Charles Mitchell, or Junior Coffey, or Rick Redman, or Hugh Millen. But that's the thing that I see. They fought like hell and tackled and hit people with discipline. That's what I see."

He continued. "So when I talk about tradition here, it's not 15 National Championships or five Heisman guys because that's not the case here. It's about real accountable guys that went down the tunnel that maybe a lot of times were not as athletic as the team that they were playing, but hit them, played them hard, and made ways to come back."

And after a brief silence, the head coach of the Washington Huskies looked at Millen, who was in attendance, and asked him, "What do you have to say about that Hugh?"

Millen responded, "Couldn't have said it better, Coach."

And with that, Gilbertson closed the press conference with a little pump of his fist by saying, "Go Huskies." Top Stories